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Over 50 Hong Kong democracy activists arrested under national security law: media –



By Yanni Chow and Yoyo Chow

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Over 50 Hong Kong pro-democracy activists were arrested on Wednesday on suspicion of violating the city’s national security law, local media reported, in the biggest crackdown yet against the opposition camp under the contentious new legislation.

Police also arrived at the offices of pro-democracy online media outlet Stand News, according to live footage on its website. A Stand News reporter said police had asked the editor-in-chief to sign documents related to a national security investigation. She said the media group would consult lawyers.

The dawn sweep of some of the city’s most prominent activists – some who advocated for aggressive anti-Beijing tactics but also former democratic lawmakers and other moderate voices – will further raise alarm that Hong Kong has taken a swift authoritarian turn.

The crackdown since the June imposition of the new law, which critics say crushes wide-ranging freedoms in the city, places China further on a collision course with the United States just as Joe Biden prepares to take over the presidency.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The arrests on Wednesday included former lawmakers and activists James To, Lam Cheuk-ting and Lester Shum, according to the Democratic Party’s Facebook page and public broadcaster RTHK.

Police did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The Democratic Party’s Facebook page said police arrested the activists for participating in an independently organised, unofficial ballot in July 2020 to select democratic candidates for a legislature election, which the Hong Kong government and Beijing warned at the time may violate the new law.

The legislative election was due in September last year but was postponed, with authorities citing coronavirus risks. It is unclear who could run for the opposition in any future polls following the mass arrests.

The attempt to win a majority in the 70-seat city legislature, which some candidates said could be used to block government proposals and increase pressure for democratic reforms, was seen as an “act of subversion, in violation of the national security law”, the party said.

Maya Wang, senior China researcher at Human Rights Watch, said the raids and arrests showed Chinese authorities were now “removing the remaining veneer of democracy in the city”. 

“Beijing once again has failed to learn from its mistakes in Hong Kong: that repression generates resistance, and that millions of Hong Kong people will persist in their struggle for their right to vote and run for office in a democratically elected government,” Wang said.

Local media said the police operation included searches of the offices of the Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute (HKPORI) and lawyers who helped organise the primaries. The organisers destroyed the data of the more than 600,000 people who voted immediately after ending the count.


The security law punishes what China broadly defines as secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in jail. When the law was introduced, authorities said it would only target a very small group of people in the former British colony of 7.5 million.

Authorities in Hong Kong and Beijing say it is vital to plug gaping holes in national security defences exposed by months of sometimes violent anti-government and anti-China protests that rocked the global financial hub in 2019.

Hong Kong was promised a high degree of autonomy unavailable elsewhere in China when it returned to Beijing rule in 1997 under a “one country, two systems” agreement.

Since the imposition of the security law, leading pro-democracy activists such as media tycoon Jimmy Lai have been arrested, some democratic lawmakers have been disqualified, activists have fled into exile, and protest slogans and songs have been declared illegal.

“The suppression of political freedom and freedom of speech by the national security law has risen to another level,” said Nathan Law, an activist who fled to Britain.

“Hong Kong people must remember this hatred. Anyone who is still defending the national security law and making peace is the enemy of Hong Kong people.”

Joshua Wong, 24, one of Hong Kong’s most prominent democracy activists, was one of more than a dozen young, more confrontational politicians who outshone the old guard in the unofficial democratic primaries in 2020.

Wong’s Twitter and Facebook accounts said his house was raided by police on Wednesday morning.

Wong was jailed last year on separate charges for organising and inciting an unlawful assembly during the 2019 anti-government protests.

(Reporting by Yanni Chow, Yoyo Chow, Joyce Zhou, Katherine Cheng, Jessie Pang and Clare Jim; Writing by Farah Master and Marius Zaharia; Editing by Michael Perry)

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Sleep, social media and mental health: Western U researchers look for links –



Researchers out of Western University in London, Ont., are trying to find out exactly how social media and sleep impact mental health, particularly among young people.

While the interplay between sleep, social media, and mental health has not been confirmed and “warrants further study,” two recently published papers are starting to shed light on how complex the relationship is.

Read more:
Why social media is a ‘missed opportunity’ as coronavirus spreads among young people

“There is quite a large body of evidence linking poor sleep with adverse health outcomes, especially among adults,” Dr. Saverio Stranges, chair of the department of epidemiology and biostatistics, told Global News.

However, the evidence among younger people, especially people like adolescents facing critical life transitions, is much more limited.”

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One of the studies, which analyzed data from the Canadian National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth, found that adolescents who experience difficulties sleeping are at higher risk of developing symptoms of anxiety and depression.

In particular, girls between the ages of 12 and 15 with persistent difficulties sleeping experienced higher rates of anxiety and depression.

“When present, these symptoms can persist into young adulthood and negatively impact relationships, quality of life and employment,” said Stranges.

Read more:
What is ‘COVID-somnia’? Why some can’t sleep during the pandemic

In another study, associate professor Kelly Anderson looked at previously published studies and reportedly found significant associations between excessive social media use and poor mental health outcomes, as well as between poor sleep quality and negative mental health.

“They are likely all part of a larger process that are feeding back to each other. So, if you aren’t sleeping well, you are probably going to use social media more often, which is going to impact your mental health, which impacts your sleep and so on.”

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Foods that help with sleep

Foods that help with sleep – Nov 18, 2020

Junayd Hussain, one of the contributing authors, says it’s the link between the three that “really interested us.”

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“Based on our research, it seemed as though at least part of the negative effects that social media use has on mental health may act through sleep disturbances.”

Read more:
Weighted blankets are trendy, but will they help your child fall asleep?

The researchers say the studies highlight the need for public health initiatives to promote sleep hygiene.

Stranges said that, in terms of public health campaigns, there has been much attention paid to the importance of diet and physical activity and the impacts of smoking and alcohol consumption, but he doesn’t believe sleep hygiene gets the same amount of attention.

“Good sleep habits should be really promoted in the very early stage because otherwise, you know, this may translate to long-term adverse health outcomes. And I think is important also from a public health perspective that we pay more attention to the way we sleep.”

Researchers say one way to promote good sleep hygiene is to limit screen time before bed.

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© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Amnesty International extends deadline for 26th annual Media Awards – Canada NewsWire



OTTAWA, ON, Jan. 15, 2021 /CNW/ – Canadian journalists have an extra week to submit their stories to Amnesty International’s Media Awards in Canada, the human rights organization announced today.

The English-speaking branch of Amnesty International’s Canadian section will now accept submissions up to 11:59 p.m. EST on Jan. 22, 2021.

These awards honour outstanding reporting on human rights issues by journalists in Canada and Canadian journalists abroad, while also increasing awareness and understanding of human rights issues for all in Canada.

If you are a Canadian journalist or working as a journalist in Canada, we invite you to review the judging criteria below and submit your 2020 human rights stories with the link provided. We look forward to hearing from you.

All entries must be published or broadcast in Canada between Jan. 1, 2020 and Dec. 31, 2020. Unfortunately, we can only accept English submissions at this time.

Categories for 2020-2021:

Written News: A written story on a current or breaking news story relating to a human rights issues of 2,000 words or less.

Written Feature: A written story of more than 2,000 words on a human rights issue. Investigative pieces and multi-part series are also welcome.

Short-Form Video: A filmed news story relating to a human rights issue of no longer than 10 minutes.

Long-Form Video: A documentary or film relating to a human rights issue with a runtime of more than 10 minutes.

Audio News: A radio or podcast news story highlighting a human rights issue with a maximum runtime of 35 minutes.

Long-Form Audio: A radio or podcast feature, or series, highlighting a human rights issue with a maximum runtime of 70 minutes. *If submitting a series, please select 2-3 examples to highlight the series. The total runtime of the selected works must not exceed 70 minutes.

Mixed Media: A combination of at least two of the abovementioned elements: text, video and audio.

Post-Secondary Youth Award: A text, audio, video or mixed media story about a human rights issue created by a student attending a post-secondary school in Canada. The piece must be published or broadcast with a school publication.

Secondary Youth Award: A text, audio, video or mixed media story about a human rights issue created by a student attending a secondary school in Canada. The piece must be published or broadcast with a school publication.

Please complete the electronic form, answer all the required questions and ensure you have URLs for your media work.

The Amnesty International  Media Awards winners will be announced in late February or early March 2021. Due to the ongoing pandemic, we are opting to host the awards ceremony online again. The virtual ceremony will be held in May 2021, with an exact date to be determined.

Click here for the Media Awards submission form.

Judging criteria:

1. Is there a human rights issue at the heart of this story? This is yes or no. If no, then don’t go any further. No points awarded.

2. Does it advance the voice and agency of individuals or communities whose experience is at the centre of the story? Maximum 10 points.

3. Is the story told in ways that advance and promote diversity and equity, and avoid maintaining stereotypes or narratives that are racist, oppressive, sexist or otherwise discriminatory? Maximum 10 points.

4. Is there a solution suggested or being worked on by different stakeholders? Or does the story simply point out the abuse or violation without going further to suggest what needs to change? Maximum 10 points.

5. How much research and enterprise reporting was involved in the story? Maximum 10 points.

6. What is the level of professionalism of the story? i.e. Is it accurate, fair, and well-written? Maximum 10 points.

7. What is the impact of the story? Has it resulted in a change to law or policy? Has it positively impacted the lives of those who are at the centre of the story? Maximum 10 points.

SOURCE Amnesty International

For further information: Lucy Scholey, Media Relations, Amnesty International Canada, 613-853-2142, [email protected]

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Media survey request becomes discussion topic for local councils – OrilliaMatters



A move by MidlandToday to tap the mood of local elected officials has brought a simple survey request to the council debate floor.

Over the past month, Community Editor Andrew Philips sent along a short survey to all council members in North Simcoe. The survey became a topic of discussion at Penetanguishene’s council meeting Wednesday.

The question: Should councillors be given the freedom to respond to it on their own or should staff craft an answer with council input?

“I have had discussions through the mayor’s teleconference with neighbouring municipalities and it’s kind of a mix,” said Mayor Doug Leroux. “We all know that Midland has been doing it individually. Tiny Township has decided they don’t want to do it individually. They want to send in a response as council as a whole.

“In Tay’s case, they were hoping to do the same,” he added, “but Mayor Ted Walker informed me that a couple of them wished to do their own and then he was also told that there were two of them that had no intentions of responding at all.”

Leroux said he was bringing it up at council to ask council members how they wanted to proceed.

“If (you) want to do a combined one or if (you) want to do one on your own, or there might be those that don’t want to do one at all,” he said. “It’s up to each councillor what their wish and desire is.”

Coun. Brian Cummings was the first one to speak up.

“These questions are personal opinion, personal political views and I don’t believe staff really should be providing answers that members of council are providing,” he said. “I think we all have our own little ideas of what’s going on, even though we are united with our strategic plan, there are some things that may come up. I believe we should be free to answer on our own if we choose to.”

Deputy Mayor Anita Dubeau and councillors Debbie Levy and Michel Mayotte showed support for what Cummings said.

“I will be doing my own, thank you very much,” said Levy.

Leroux said this was exactly why he asked the question.

“If you all want to, you can just go ahead and proceed all do your own,” he said. “If there are those that don’t want to do one, then you’re free to do that as well.”

Leroux did add a clarification: “It’s not staff’s ideas or recommendations. It’s input from members of council that staff would prepare.”

The survey Philips sent out to council members in the four municipalities is a common year-end practice in newsrooms. It gives council members a chance to reflect on their year in office and focus on the gains and losses. It also helps in realigning their ideas moving forward.

Five responses to the survey by Midland council members have already been shared on MidlandToday‘s website.

Philips received a call from Tiny Township staff indicating all of council will provide a combined response to this individual exercise.

So far, four Tay Township councillors have also sent in their responses, but a Thursday committee discussion indicated they still sought clarity around how council members should deal with members of the media. (Story to follow.) 

The Penetanguishene motion around the survey died on the floor as there was no mover or seconder.

The survey provided to councillors (question #4 varied by municipality):

Question 1. What are you most proud of, personally as a councillor, that you/council have been able to accomplish in the first half of your mandate?

Question 2. What is your biggest disappointment as it relates to a council decision/direction or issue?

Question 3. Nobody saw the pandemic coming. Specifically, as a councillor, what is the biggest challenge the pandemic has created and how have you tried to tackle that challenge?

Question 4. What is your vision for the area known as Midland Bay Landing (i.e. a full park, half a park and the balance development, mostly development)?

Question 5. Are you doing enough as a council to be transparent, to encourage public input and to listen? How so? How could that be improved during the second half of your mandate?

Question 6. What is the biggest challenge council faces in the second half of its mandate (ie. Staff retirements, promised tax freeze, capacity) and what are your top priorities?

Question 7: Lastly, do you intend to seek re-election? Why or why not?

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